Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2008-09 > 1221908503

From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] BARWOOD: Anthony John Barwood 2008
Date: Sat, 20 Sep 2008 12:01:43 +0100

Group Captain Tony Barwood
RAF doctor who improved the ejection seat and became an international expert
on aircraft escape systems.

Last Updated: 1:18AM BST 18 Sep 2008


Barwood: an outspoken man, he was never afraid to take on the bureaucrats
Group Captain Tony Barwood, who has died aged 93, was a consultant in
aviation medicine and specialised in the development of survival equipment
and aircraft escape systems for military aircrew.

For 18 years Barwood was head of the applied physiology section of the RAF
Institute of Aviation Medicine at Farnborough, building an outstanding
reputation for his expertise in the field of the safety and survival of

His work led to modifications to the Martin Baker ejection seat, which
markedly reduced the incidence of back injuries on ejection.

The improvements he suggested also made the seat more comfortable, thus
reducing fatigue among the aircrew.

This was a particular concern of the pilots and their crews, but Barwood
found it an uphill struggle to convince the authorities of its importance.
With 15 per cent of aircrew experiencing back pain every time they flew, an
apparently mundane medical issue had become a serious handicap to
operational efficiency. Eventually it was agreed that the seats should be

Notwithstanding these significant contributions, it was as an "air crash
detective" that Barwood made his unique contribution to aviation medicine.

For 15 years he investigated all ejections that occurred during that period,
analysing the performance of the seats and the physical effects on the

His painstaking examination and reconstruction of each example of ejection,
to identify any fault or weakness, allowed him to suggest improvements both
to equipment and procedures.

In 1976 Barwood received the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators Air
Safety Award, a gold medal awarded annually to a person who had made an
outstanding and practical contribution to the safer operation of aircraft
and the survival of aircrew.

The citation concluded: "There can be no doubt that there are many aircrew
who are alive today whose survival can be directly attributed to the
devotion, skill and inventiveness of Group Captain Barwood."

Antony John Barwood was born at Norwich on April 1 1915 and educated at
Oundle. In 1935 he went to St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School,
graduating five years later.

It was during the first months of the war that he came to the attention of
the RAF. He was cycling home when a Hampden bomber crashed in a nearby
field. The crew escaped the burning bomber, but the rear gunner was trapped
by his foot. Barwood entered the aircraft and removed the gunner's boot with
a medical scalpel. They had just escaped when the bomber blew up.

Barwood joined the RAF in 1941, and after a brief spell on a bomber station
he underwent high-altitude decompression tests at Farnborough before joining
No 90 Squadron in Norfolk as its medical officer. It had just been equipped
with the high-flying US B-17 Fortress, and he became involved in testing
aircrew oxygen systems, often flying above 30,000ft.

On one occasion he was due to fly on a test flight when a senior doctor
"pulled rank" and took his place. The aircraft broke up in the air and all
the crew were lost except the doctor, who was able to bale out.

In February 1942 Barwood left for the Middle East as medical officer with No
220 Squadron. He survived a crash landing in the desert and on another
occasion had to parachute to safety, thus becoming a member of the Late
Arrivals Club and the Caterpillar Club, an unusual distinction for a
non-aircrew officer.

In July 1942 he left for India and served in Calcutta and Ceylon, returning
to England three years later to work in London at the Central Medical

In 1948 Barwood started the first of many appointments at the Institute of
Aviation Medicine, where he worked on the development of aircraft escape

He also participated in several survival exercises in the Canadian Arctic
and Norway, testing cold-weather flying suits and equipment.

Later he tackled the problem of heat stress of aircrew flying from bases in
the desert and the tropics. Flying at high level required thermally
insulated clothing, but the time spent on the ground at readiness and
waiting for take-off created very stressful conditions, which were a threat
to operational efficiency.

Barwood devised the air-ventilated suit to be worn under the outer garments.
The nylon garment had a ventilating harness of narrow-bore tubing through
which cool air was passed. In May 1950 Barwood and a team of aviation
doctors conducted a trial of the suit at Khartoum, when cockpit temperatures
in the Vampire jet fighter they were using reached 56 degrees Centigrade.

Barwood started to specialise in ejection seats in 1952. He established a
close personal and professional friendship with Sir James Martin, the
pioneer of the seats, which lasted throughout their lives.

After a brief spell in Germany, Barwood returned to the Institute of
Aviation Medicine in October 1958 and worked in the applied physiology
section, eventually becoming its head. In 1961 he was seconded to BEA to
conduct studies on pilot fatigue; he gathered information during many
flights on the Comet and Viscount.

Having retired from the RAF in 1980, when he was 65, Barwood changed his
uniform for a suit and continued his work as a civilian consultant for
another five years, commuting weekly from his home in north Norfolk.

He was appointed OBE in June 1952. In 1950 he received the RAF's annual
safety award, the LG Groves Memorial Prize; and in 1969 he was awarded the
RAF Medical Branch's Richard Fox-Linton Memorial Prize for his outstanding
contribution to aircrew safety. He was a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical

In uniform, Barwood did not cut the traditional figure of a military
officer. An outspoken man, he was never afraid to battle bureaucratic
obstinacy and sometimes relished expressing a disdain for higher authority.
This made him a popular and greatly respected figure amongst the aircrew,
whom he always saw as being his most important and valuable customers.

In Norfolk Barwood enjoyed growing vegetables on his allotment, his
favourite being runner beans. He was a keen salmon fisherman who visited the
same beat on the Tweed every year.

Tony Barwood died on August 30. His wife, Nora, whom he married in 1946,
died in 2006, and he is survived by their two daughters.

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